Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

May 01, 2013

  • Obama Plays for Time to Avoid 'Red Line'

    By Doyle McManus. Los Angeles Times

    Barack Obama really, really does not want to get tangled up in Syria. 

    For almost a year, Obama's secretaries of State — first Hillary Rodham Clinton, now John Kerry — have pressed the president for more aid to the insurgents who are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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  • President Backs F.B.I. Handling of Boston Suspect in ’11

    By Peter Baker and Michael S. Schimdt, The New York Times

    President Obama offered his support Tuesday for the F.B.I.'s handling of a Russian intelligence tip about a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, even as the nation’s intelligence chief announced a review of whether more could have been done to thwart the attack.

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  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte Becomes Focus of Gun-Control Groups After Voting Against Background Checks

    By Ed O'keefe, The Washington Post

    The contentious political fight over gun control moved into the White Mountains of New Hampshire on Tuesday as gun-control activists began to focus on Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) as a prime target in their effort to revive their push for stricter gun laws.

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  • White House to Name Wheeler to Be Chairman of U.S. FCC

    By Julianna Goldman and Todd Shield, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama will name Tom Wheeler, a top campaign fundraiser and former leader of wireless- and cable-industry groups, to head the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

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Apr 30, 2013

  • Female DNA Found on Boston Bomb Pieces

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

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  • Kelly Ayotte in Focus as NRA and Anti-Hun Groups Mobilize

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    Whether the Senate ever reconsiders gun-control legislation could be decided this week as groups pushing for stricter gun laws plan to mobilize supporters here and in other states with senators who recently voted against a bipartisan plan to expand the national gun background check program.

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  • Flights of Fancy

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Before I go on vacation, I work a little harder. It makes me feel like I deserve the break. Charlie Chaplin said if he didn’t write every day, he felt he didn’t deserve dinner. Members of Congress apparently feel the same way. Before they went on recess this past week, they were hard at work on their most sustained long-term project: tanking their approval ratings.

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  • How Did Obama Do in His First 100 Days?

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • Why Both the Dems and the GOP Now Think Voters Prefer Female Candidates

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    In the two-year cycle of the political calendar, it is candidate-recruitment season—the time when Washington operatives fan out across the country to size up the political horseflesh. In the months to come, they will meet with scores of state legislators, small-town mayors, community activists, and upstanding business owners, gauging which ones might have what it takes to run for a House or Senate seat, or for governor or state treasurer. These political scouts will take many qualities into account, from life story to speaking ability to baby-kissing skills. But they will be looking, in particular, for a few good women.

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  • Elizabeth Colbert Busch to Mark Sanford: 'You Didn't Tell the Truth'

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch aggressively attacked Mark Sanford in her first-ever political debate, bringing up the former governor's personal problems just eight days before the May 7 special election.

    The novice candidate for Congress held her own against the former governor and congressman. “You didn’t tell the truth,” she said, referring to his alleged promise to support dredging the Port of Charleston but perhaps also to his marital affair and violations of state ethics laws.

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Apr 29, 2013

  • Obama to Nominate Charlotte Mayor to Transportation Post

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama on Monday plans to nominate Anthony R. Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., to be the next secretary of transportation, choosing a rising young African-American from the South to balance out a cabinet criticized for a lack of diversity.

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  • Middle-Class Americans Still Aren't Being Helped by Washington

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    The 2012 presidential campaign was fought over one big issue: which candidate and which party would be better equipped to help and protect struggling middle-class Americans. Since then, political leaders in Washington have done nothing to make good on their promises.

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  • FBI Criticized For Failing To 'Connect Dots' In Boston Case

    With Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The failure of the FBI and the CIA to keep track of Tamerlan Dsarnaev in the months preceding the Boston Marathon bombing has prompted criticism that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials ignored important warning signs. The case is reminiscent of criticism leveled at counterterrorism officials after Army Maj. Nidal Hasan's shooting rampage at Fort Hood Texas in November 2009 and after the al-Qaida-directed attempt to blow up a civilian airliner on Christmas Day of that year. In both cases, counterterrorism officials subsequently acknowledged that mistakes had been made. Whether authorities missed important evidence of Dsarnaev's intentions, however, is far less clear. Veteran intelligence officers say resource and legal constraints make it very difficult to follow suspicious individuals closely unless their behavior is genuinely alarming.

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  • Asylum and Entry/Exit Systems Get Another Look in Congress After Boston

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    If the political stars had been aligned differently, the home-made bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line earlier this month would have derailed the fast-moving immigration effort on Capitol Hill. It is not uncommon for lawmakers to shy away from hard-nosed legislative deal-making on controversial issues in the wake of such unexpected catastrophes.

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  • McManus: Obama's War on Red Tape

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Here are three things the Obama administration has done that you probably didn't know about: Ever struggle with those accordion-style rubber sleeves on nozzles at the gas station? The sleeve — technically a "vapor recovery nozzle" — was required by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep gasoline vapors from leaking into the air. But most cars and trucks now have technology that does the job better, so last year the EPA abolished the nozzle requirement. Because each sleeve-equipped nozzle can cost as much as $300, the change will save gas stations thousands of dollars.

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  • Court May Limit Use of Race in College Admission Decisions

    By Joan Biskupic, Reuters

    Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court set the terms for boosting college admissions of African Americans and other minorities, the court may be about to issue a ruling that could restrict universities' use of race in deciding who is awarded places.

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  • Black Voters Are Key to a Colbert Busch Win in South Carolina

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    South Carolina’s First Congressional District is known for the churning Port of Charleston, growing suburbs to the north, and stately homes with wrap-around porches from Beaufort to Mount Pleasant. The white, well-heeled voters who dominate the district favored Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by 18 percentage points.

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Apr 26, 2013

  • Doing Nothing in Syria Is Riskier Than Getting Involved

    By James Kitfield

    Should the United States and its allies become directly involved in Syria’s civil war, historians may well look back at Thursday’s announcement that the regime of strongman Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people as an important inflection point. In truth, the Obama administration has already been quietly increasing its assistance to the Syrian rebels for months, as red flags continue to mount indicating that the cost of doing almost nothing about Syria has steadily begun to outweigh the risks of doing more.

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  • White House Says Syria Used Sarin Gas on Its Own People

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • Q&A on Assad's WMD Use and the U.S. Response

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    The White House confirmed Thursday that Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria “used chemical weapons on a small scale” in the civil war there, potentially escalating international resolve to end a violent conflict that has displaced 2 million people and killed 70,000 to 80,000 Syrians.

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